First thing’s first: Congratulations, Kayci (#11)!
It occurred to me that I never shared Part 2 of my yoga teacher training journey, so I thought I’d remedy that today. After the amazing experience I had getting my yoga certification over the summer I decided to continue my yoga education through the month-long Corepower Extensions Program (XP), which just started last week.
In XP we get to dig more deeply into what we only got to scratch the surface of in TT. How to teach more effectively, how to design classes for specific goals, practice more hands-on adjustments, and have more discussions about the philosophy of yoga, with a specific focus on ethics. Our “textbooks” for the course are B.K.S. Iyengar’s Tree of Yoga and Donna Farhi’s Teaching Yoga.
I am totally geeking out about all of this because a lot of this feels like a course on pedagogy. For those of you who don’t know, I’m sort of into pedagogy. And by ‘sort of’, I mean it’s the reason I decided to become a college professor. I really do love writing and thinking and being all intellectual-y, but I’m a teacher before I’m a researcher. When I share the classroom space with the students I teach at the university where I work, I am so inspired by the transformations—-large and small—-that occur in that room. It feels fulfilling and important to teach classes that enable me and my students to explore topics like sexism, racism, heterosexism, capitalism, etc. In Frierian tradition, I resist any form of “banking education.”
Yoga is trickier. In some ways, yoga feels exactly like a ‘banking-style’—-like I’m transmitting knowledge to my students, without providing them space to be agentic in their process of learning. Fortunately, I’m learning how to challenge that method of teaching, and am instead finding ways to invite students to explore their bodies during class in ways that are intuitive and healing for their particular positionalities. With this intention in mind, yoga can be an optimal example of a teaching practice that allows for a reciprocal, egalitarian relationship between teacher and student. Furthermore, XP is reminding me that yoga is more than just asana (poses). Yoga is a lifestyle, a philosophy, a modality. My challenge will be to find ways to incorporate these other elements of yoga in a 60 minute class so that my students will also learn how to “take their yoga off the mat.”
Taking more time to study yoga with a group of fellow teachers has also helped me make an important shift in personal goals. When I originally set out to do teacher training, I said I wanted to be the kind of person that “seemed like a yoga teacher.” That is, when someone met me, they’d say, “She’s a yoga teacher? That makes sense.” This goal, while well-intended, is ultimately rather selfish.
Now—-after hearing some wise words from one of our guest lecturers—-I have reworked that goal. Instead of wondering what people will feel about me, I am asking: “How will people feel about themselves after spending time with me?” When I think about it, all my favorite yoga teachers make me feel really good about myself. I think they are magnificent human beings too, but part of that comes from the fact that their energy seems to give me permission to practice self-love. And it feels wonderful.
When I teach students in college, I want them to feel empowered to be critical thinkers (at the very least), and (ideally) to be engaged in practices of progressive social change. When I teach yoga students, I want them to feel empowered to heal (themselves, their loved ones, the world). And I truly believe these things go hand-in-hand.
For the past couple weeks, I’ve been teaching classes to my friends (in the park and in my living room). For the few that have been able to attend more than one of my classes, I’ve been able to see them improve and go deeper into certain poses. Real transformation is happening, just like when I see progress from a student’s first paper compared to their last. It’s been really lovely.
So what comes after XP? Well, it’s likely that I’ll audition for a spot to teach classes through Corepower. But the real impetus behind YTT has always been rooted in my desire to teach yoga classes to populations who would not otherwisehave access and/or desire to step into an actual yoga studio. In fact, in October 2011, I wrote the following on a plane ride home from an academic conference. The weekend had been full of heavy intellectualizing, so I chose something lighter,Yoga Journal, for my in-flight reading. After reading an article about a yoga teacher who taught classes at a men’s rehab program, I put the magazine down and took out my little “idea notebook.” This was the result:
Now, less than a year later, I’m finding ways to make this happen. I’m currently in the works of creating a yoga program for Save the Kids, an organization that does work in juvenile detention centers. I’ve volunteered with STK before, and I’m thrilled to be working with the founder to incorporate yoga classes into the curriculum.
So far, yoga has benefited my academic career by bringing me balance (for the most part—being on the academic job market is really good at thwarting my yogic intentions). But I have also been inspired to incorporate this into my research, and hope that my next big project will be a Health Communication project that critically explores the yoga and wellness industries (because as much as I love it, it’s obviously full of problems, particularly in terms of race and class exclusions).
So, that’s the yoga update! Teacher Training, and the realization that teaching and practicing yoga is a lifelong process, has been undeniably life-changing. That’s not to say that I’m an entirely different person. It’s certainly not to say that I’m always yogic in my thoughts, actions, moods. But it does help ground me and make present to a center that feels sincere. And it makes me want to share that with the world. Presence, sincerity, community….It’s hard to want for more.
Are you involved with a project/class/practice that inspires you? Tell me about it in the comments! I love hearing about other people’s experiences!